Two years in between releases isn’t necessarily a long time – unless you’re a child of the streaming era, where mainstream artists drop projects within months of each other. In that regard, it’s been too long since Bawal Clan linked up with Owfuck for their 2020 powerhouse collaboration ‘Ligtas’ – but all is forgiven now that the first rap crew have dropped new album ‘Tales from Tha Crypt, Vol. 1’.
Producer Yung Bawal has described the album as “a mix of old songs and new ones that all have their own vibe”. Without any particular theme connecting the songs, this project serves more as a primer on the group for new listeners – and a showcase of how they’ve developed for old fans.
Rjay Ty’s verses come across as more laidback and even-keeled than his earlier work. He offers a taste in his verse in ‘Sturdy1,’ but cranks it up a notch in the bridge of ‘So High,’ where he sings about how comfortable he’s become in his own skin. In ‘Ophir,’ DZ SVG engages in some word painting, distorting his voice on top of the brooding beat – in so doing channeling a character tormented by their demons. In the same track, Nuevo uses his verse to flex his lyrical mastery, using internal rhymes and symmetric cadence to such detail that he sounds like a makata (poet) for the modern day.
Coming off his debut solo album last year, Lex Luthoor stands out on this project – because he doesn’t sacrifice clarity in his delivery regardless of the flow or cadence he uses. Meanwhile, new member AGENT2K makes a splash in his Bawal Clan debut, whispering in your ear like a bad influence in ‘Sturdy1’ and then doing a 180 in ‘Yes!’ by baring his soul as a man gutted by the end of a relationship.
Despite the lack of an overall theme, ‘Tales From Tha Crypt, Vol. 1’ has been conscientiously produced to make you feel some type of way when a specific song comes on. Listening to ‘Big Fat’ evokes memories of Teriyaki Boyz; you can imagine Ankhten Brown just going wild on stage with the song’s catchy hook as the rest of Bawal Clan savour the visual of a curvy derriere. But right after that, they deliver a dreamy vibe with ‘Jäger’ as OJ River takes you through the high of a seedy night in Poblacion.
Bawal Clan save the best for last with the album’s satisfying closing track, the JedLi remix of ‘Sincerely Yours.’ The radio-friendly retro beat is a throwback to the days of jazz rap and could easily fit well in a playlist alongside the hits of A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets. Each verse features two MCs exchanging bars. Due to the similar timbres of their voices, it could sound like one rapper taking up the entire verse, but closer listens reveal the playful back-and-forth.
Bawal Clan were never really gone, but after two years without an album, ‘Tales from Tha Crypt, Vol. 1’ feels like a gratifying comeback for the group. The 10-track release is a fun half-hour ride that successfully introduces new member AGENT2K and allows the collective’s existing members to experiment with new techniques, characters, and flows – a gamble that, by and large, hits paydirt.
- Release date: April 29
- Record label: Homonym/Hyphen Distribution
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